The reason I love writing this column, other than the pay, is that I learn so much from you.

We have a deal (implicit, but a deal nonetheless): I’ll do my best to be fair and accurate; but – because my fact-checking staff was distracted by the sound of a Good Humor truck eight summers ago and left me, never to return – you’ll correct me when I’m wrong.

Example of when I’m wrong:


If you read Friday’s column before 9:36am, Eastern Time, when I amended it – well, I amended it. Turns out, the golf story (that a golf course has 18 holes because there are 18 shots in a fifth of Scotch) was entirely untrue. But that doesn’t hurt it in the least.

Jim Arient: ‘My law school son, Matt, who was a college All America golfer, sent me this from the USGA:’

Why are there 18 holes on a golf course?

The links at St. Andrews occupy a narrow strip of land along the sea. As early as the 15th century, golfers at St. Andrews established a customary route through the undulating terrain, playing to holes whose locations were dictated by topography. The course that emerged featured eleven holes, laid out end to end from the clubhouse to the far end of the property. One played the holes out, turned around, and played the holes in, for a total of 22 holes. In 1764, several of the holes were deemed too short, and were therefore combined. The number was thereby reduced from 11 to nine, so that a complete round of the links comprised 18 holes.

When golf clubs in the UK formally recognized the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews as the rule-making body for the sport in the late 1890s, it became necessary for many clubs to expand or reduce the length of their course to eighteen holes. Prior to this time, courses ranged in length from six holes to upward of 20 holes. However, if golfers were to play by the official R&A rules, then their appointed round would consist of 18 holes.

Ed Hassell: ‘Technically, there are either 17 shots or 25.6 shots in a fifth of Scotch. The traditional ‘shot’ was an ounce and a half, leading to 17 shots in a ‘fifth’ of a gallon. Today’s more socially responsible shot is only one ounce, leading to 25.6 shots in the fifth. Either way, the golf course story is (ahem) shot full of holes.’

Example of when we can all learn a little something from my mistake:


Alex: ‘I am completing a Doctor of Dental Surgery at The University of Melbourne (Australia). As I was reading your article two things struck me: how many people still refer to Novocain as the local anaesthetic they were injected with, even though Novocain was abandoned back in the 1950s due to its associated increased incidence of systemic toxicity and anaphylaxis. The standard anaesthetic (and the one you probably received) is Xylocaine 2% with 1:80000 Adrenalin, and a secondary dose of Marcaine 2% with 1:200000 Adrenalin (which would have kept you numb for about seven hours). The other thing was your acknowledgement of how lucky we are to have painless dentistry. This is far too often underappreciated in developed world countries, and I thank you for making the point. Keep up the good work, and rinse with .02% Chlorhexidine for the next week to prevent infection!’

☞ Ah. When it’s ‘Novocain,’ it’s the abandoned anesthetic. When it’s ‘novocaine’ (small n, final e), it’s become the vernacular for the general category, like – despite the best efforts of the legal staff at Kimberly-Clark, makers of Kleenex® brand facial tissues “… thank goodness for Kleenex® Brand Tissue”) – kleenex.

Semi-example of when I’m wrong:


Peg: “I thought that you might like to read this [esoteric but delightful] post about the same graphic that you showed recently.”

☞ Seems that while, yes, median income has declined over the Bush years, the Detroit News mixed apples with oranges and overstated the decline in producing its map. (This is a “semi-example” both because the main point – tough times for average folks – was right and because here I did not commit the blunder directly, I merely compounded it by passing it on. Again: we have a deal. Our deal is that I can pass things on without checking them as thoroughly as I would for PARADE or a book or something, knowing that you will (a) keep this grain of salt handy on your mouse pad at all times and (b) let me know when I’ve goofed – and then I’ll pass that on as well.)

Incidentally, USA Today recently reported:

The nation’s median household income rose last year for the first time since 1999, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

Median household income climbed 1.1% to $46,326 in 2005. That means half of U.S. households earned more and half earned less. Per capita income rose 1.5% to $25,036, the Census Bureau said.

The income jump hid some somber news. Earnings actually fell for people working full-time. Household income rose because more people worked in the households, albeit at lower paying jobs.

Example of when I’m not wrong:


Not sure how ABC will edit “The Path to 9/11” I decried – I’m writing this before either half aired – but this blog post makes the same point with more links and a better sense of humor:

A lot of people have been getting all worked up about ABC’s “The Path To 9/11$30 million RNC contribution docudrama, claiming that it makes s–t up in order to blame everything on Clinton. True, some of the people who are criticizing the miniseries were high-level counterterrorism officials in the Bush administration, and some wrote the official report on which the show claims to be based, and one was a terrorism expert hired to work on the production, but have any of them actually seen the show they are criticizing? Of course not – only Rush Limbaugh and right-wing bloggers have been allowed to see it!

Example of when I’m right:


Mike Lynott: “Twenty-five of us saw ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ at The Flicks in Boise last night, where it’s been running for almost a month. I know you’ve been encouraging people to see it. Let me add my encouragement. It’s amazing.”

Example of when I’m right – so far:


Suggested March 3, when unusually nimble readers could have bought it for $38.11, FMD closed Friday at $52.98, up a buck and a half on this news:

Should we take the money and run? Free advice being, as ever, worth what you pay for it, my answer would be . . . no.

Writes my guru on this stock: “I suspect that this is very good news, but we’ll have to wait a few days until the deal terms are released to see whether there has been any margin compression, improvement in business mix (partner concentration, etc.), or decrementing of forward residual opportunity due to accelerated paydowns. If all goes well, this could be very painful for the shorts. We should know by Thursday or so.”

I plan to hold FMD well past Thursday, hoping that its earnings continue to grow in the coming years and, with them, the stock price.

Example of when I desperately hope to be right:


I share your disappointment this did not take off as I thought it would when the plane moved – or when the iron ore financing and off-take deals were announced. But I continue to think this preposterously unconventional company is an irresistible lottery ticket, even though it now feels as though the drawing may be years, rather than months, off.

But only, as always, with money you can truly afford to lose.

Best example of when I’m right:


I told you Web Boggle would wreck your life, and I was right. I told you to put your e-mail PS’s before your e-signature, and I was right. But have I ever been as right as I was about Monk-e-Mail? You cannot tell me it doesn’t crack you up to compose one. The only thing more fun is to get one. All free.


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